One of the most critical components of project management is understanding various methodologies, their strengths and weaknesses, and knowing when those teachings are best applied. Read on to learn more about the Agile and Waterfall methodologies, their similarities, and differences, and when to apply them in daily project management work.
Agile vs. Waterfall Methodologies: What’s the Difference?
While Agile and Waterfall are both methodologies that exist in project management, their use cases and core rules are extremely different. The main difference between Agile and Waterfall is that the Agile methodology is extremely flexible, whereas the Waterfall methodology is rigid.
The Agile methodology is team-driven and includes room for quick changes, edits, and room for stakeholder feedback throughout. On the other hand, the Waterfall approach is more traditional, with projects following a sequential approach that only involves feedback at the end of the project.
Overview: A Quick Comparison of Agile and Waterfall
Read more: What is Agile Project Management?
Key Differences between Agile and Waterfall
Key points: High degree of flexibility and continuous evolution
Requirements: Shorter deadlines, frequent check-ins, and a highly adaptable team with team members that can play various roles as needed
Key points: Rigid structure and a sequential process
Requirements: Highly structured team, a hands-on project manager, and a well-defined project plan
History of Agile and Waterfall Methodology
History of the Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology was created after the tech boom of the late 1990s when software developers realized they needed a more flexible approach to projects. Before the Agile methodology, software developers and technical teams were frustrated by the Waterfall approach’s limited capacity to embrace change throughout the project lifecycle. For example, if there was an error or major flaw in a software product, by the time the product was delivered to stakeholders, there was no room for improvement without kicking off a new project.
In February of 2001, a group of 17 software developers met in Snowbird, Utah, determined to create a better way of managing projects that could address some of their frustrations. At the conclusion of the trip, the group created the Agile Manifesto that outlines the key principles of modern Agile project management, effectively creating a better method of project management for teams that required a higher level of flexibility than previous methods provided.
History of the Waterfall Methodology
The Waterfall methodology is the oldest project management methodology, first documented in a paper titled “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems,” published by Winston W. Royce in 1970. Inspired by the rigid, repetitive process of Henry Ford’s assembly line, the Waterfall method became popular in the 70s and 80s but became less popular in the 90s as technology-focused teams realized the limitations of the method.
Read more: Waterfall Software Development & Tools
When to Use Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology embraces uncertainty, with ambiguous details and adaptability reigning as two core values. Projects with high levels of uncertainty surrounding timeline, budget, and resources are great candidates for the Agile method. In particular, technical teams, such as software engineers, IT support teams, video game developers, and tech startups tend to favor the Agile approach to project management because of the flexibility it grants them when developing new products.
When to Use Waterfall Methodology
The Waterfall method relies on sequential events and high levels of predictability. A wide variety of projects are good candidates for the Waterfall model, including projects with well-defined requirements, small or highly focused projects, projects that do not have a rigid timeline and repeatable projects that follow similar steps each time. Specifically, industries such as construction and manufacturing benefit from using the Waterfall method.
Pairing Agile and Waterfall Methodologies with Project Management Tools
When incorporating a new methodology into the team’s project strategy, utilizing the power of project management tools such as project management software can help create a unified documentation system for project documents while making essential tasks like assigning deadlines much easier.
Project Management Software for Agile Teams: ClickUp
ClickUp is a great choice in project management software for Agile teams because it supports the essential features that Agile teams need most, from a variety of collaborative features to 15 project views, and reporting features that can help fill in the gaps where project documentation is concerned.
Examples of collaborative features within ClickUp, such as instant chat. Source: ClickUp, accessed November 2023.
Collaborative options: Compared to most project management solutions, ClickUp offers a host of communication tools, from built-in chat to video calling and tagged commenting features that help Agile teams stay in touch throughout the project lifecycle.
Flexible views: ClickUp offers 15 view options for Agile teams that require flexibility in task visualization, including dashboard views that enable teams to monitor the analytics of multiple projects at one time, extracting viral information about project work and completion status.
Client communication: For Agile teams, client and stakeholder communication is paramount. ClickUp makes it easier for Agile teams to update external stakeholders with features such as in-app email sharing, guest viewing, and cloud storage for essential documents.
Project Management Software for Waterfall Teams: monday.com
monday.com is a great choice for Waterfall projects because it offers support for achieving well-defined project goals while helping Waterfall teams speed up processes. Features such as workflow automations, templates, and individual task overviews help optimize Waterfall project processes while keeping teams accountable.
Example of the Waterfall project template in monday.com. Source: monday.com, accessed November 2023.
Project templates: monday.com offers over 100 templates for starting projects easily without the hassle of setup, including a specialized template for Waterfall projects.
Workflow automations: Waterfall projects can often take longer than other types of projects and monday.com’s customizable workflow automations make it easy to repeat menial tasks, speeding up the project process overall.
Project monitoring: monday.com allows users to monitor the status of projects in a few ways, including multi-project dashboard views and the individual task tracking column, which provides a real-time tracker of how close tasks are to completion.
Read more: 10 Best Project Management Software for 2023